The Story so Far…
From 1997 to today
North Bar opened in Leeds in 1997. We took over a long, narrow unit on New Briggate and started building a bar. In the early days, the beer selection was much less adventurous. We sold Kronenbourg, Guinness and lots of Beamish Red. However, we started to build a reputation for brilliant service and great music in quirky surroundings. And the drinks selection quickly improved!
As soon as we had fulfilled the barrelage on our opening loan with Kronenbourg, we had free reign to pour on our taps. But there wasn’t much choice! A trip to Belgium in the early 2000s opened our minds to what beer could be, and we started asking distributors to import the beers that we’d tried. We branded ourselves as a ‘world beer bar’ (cool at the time, sounds a bit naff now) and started to play.
We became a test bed for new beers coming to the UK – James Clay and Sons and Vertical drinks were integral to this – filling our cellars with Belgian and German classics, alongside our first tastes of hoppy American craft beers. We were asked to take a punt on a new American beer and try it on tap for the first time called Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale – you might have heard of it! The beer launches continued to flow through, featuring classics such as Erdinger, Brooklyn Lager, and Duchesse de Bourgogne, and introducing drinkers to new UK craft beers like Magic Rock’s Cannonball.
North was a bit of a slow burner in the early days. We were doing something very different, and Leeds city centre was very different to how it is these days. We would regularly sit in the window to make it look busy, with one of us running behind the bar when people ventured in! Our neighbours at The Grand Theatre kept us going – the show technicians started popping in after work, they told the musicians, who told the art students, who told their friends. We had found our crowd.
Over the past 25 years we have grown our family of bars, opening cosy neighbourhood bars in the suburbs of Leeds, and modern, airy taprooms in the city centre. We even had our own (gone, but fondly remembered) beer ice cream van for a few summer seasons!
in 2015 north brewing co was born
We kept launching breweries and seeing their success. And we kept talking about opening a brewery, but getting distracted by another bar, kids, marriage etc!
We were confident that we had a thorough understanding of the industry, but we didn’t have any technical knowledge of brewing.
And then we found Seb.
Seb was working as a music teacher, whilst cuckoo brewing on the side under the name Golden Owl. He was a regular at Alfred, our neighbourhood bar in Meanwood, and the staff had got wind of how good his beer was.
The staff encouraged him to speak to John and Christian, and North found its head brewer.
Before Seb would come on board, he wanted to brew us a beer. At the time UK IPAs were chasing IBUs and bitterness, however Seb wanted to look to the styles emerging in the states and aim for something a little softer, a little juicier. And so Transmission was born.
Transmission sits between the two coasts. It marries West Coast citrus and pine, with East Coast stone fruits and juice. It’s become a little hazier and softer over the years, with Seb lending new techniques and hop profiles to the beer.
“I remember when we met to try the first beer. Seb came to North Bar with a handful of brown bottles. John was loaded with a cold, and I was so, so nervous. John couldn’t taste anything but I was like, ‘Shit, that’s amazing.’ I was a bit choked up.” Christian
When we set up North Brewing Co we thought that we would supply our bars, and a few close friends.
Things have got a little bit bigger since then.
We doubled capacity by adding more tanks anywhere that we could find floorspace every year. We had built an ambitious brewery team by this point, developing former bar managers to head up our production and sales and logistics teams. We knew we needed a bigger boat!
in 2021 we opened Springwell
Springwell is a 21,000 square foot former Victorian Tannery which we converted into a modern brewery and taproom during lockdown. We carefully restored the building, being mindful of its heritage, and created an incredible workspace and bar.
Pints of our crisp, clean Pils are served in the shadow of the tanks where they were brewed. Friday evenings see us clear the warehouse yard, filling it with beer hall style tables under twinkling festoon lights. Guests arrive as the brew team are finishing up for the week, before being joined by them for well earned Friday evening pints.
Our brewing capacity at Springwell has enabled us to expand our range. We have launched Gluten Free and Alcohol Free beers, brewed international collabs, and developed a cask range made up of modern twists on traditional styles.
in 2022 we launched Field Recordings
Field Recordings is a new venture into brewing, based at our original brewery site at Taverner’s Walk.
It’s a place where we’ll be taking pieces of what we have seen and done, and interpreting them into experimental drinks styles.
We will be barrel ageing beer, experimenting with different strains of yeast, exploring the use of locally grown ingredients, looking at historic brewing techniques and seeing how we can translate them into modern styles.
We will look at how other fermented drinks are made, applying and blending those techniques into our beers. Who knows, we may even make some wine, cider or mead.
Field Recordings is an opportunity to look back through our entire relationship with beer, the many years we’ve been involved with it and begin to piece together a collage of what we know and what we’re excited to explore. We are creating new beers that represent our interests and passion to the fullest.
We will be releasing beers from Field Recordings every 4-6 weeks. Sometimes they’ll take a little longer. Sometimes they’ll be ready sooner. It will be a learning process.
And what’s next for North?
We don’t stop. We are ambitious, and driven.
Watch this space.